The Seasons Fund: Funding Inner Change

original text from the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation brochure & Web site.

Welcome to a new section for transform. Look here for the latest word on all things money for nonprofits, social justice organizations and activists, allies and agents of change. Our first article focuses on the Seasons Fund’s support of transformative change work.

The Seasons Fund for Social Transformation has supported countless numbers of organizations engaged in transformative change. They “invest in opportunities to couple the expansive power of personal transformation with the public work of repairing societal ills in the United States.

The Fund, a collaborative effort led by several private foundations, springs from a shared belief that cultivating a rich inner life is both a worthy end in itself and an overlooked pathway to heightening the impact, effectiveness, and sustainability of social change initiatives.”

The Seasons Fund for Social Transformation arises from a realization that action is not enough. No matter how many projects and campaigns and initiatives and alliances we set in motion, we won’t find fundamental solutions to societal ills until we learn how to approach this work with greater awareness, compassion, and humility.

Wider access to management training and leadership development can help overcome some of the internal problems that weaken and limit social change organizations, from poor planning and weak strategic analysis to lack of performance standards. But it’s going to take more than technical interventions. We must also bring the right intention and presence to our jobs. Many of us can point to a formative moment or experience that awakened our political consciousness, often leaving us wounded and angry.  Such pain is often translated into the fuel that powers transformative approaches to social change, but when we leave these negative emotions unexamined, unexplored, and unhealed, the solutions we devise can be fraught with resentment and bitterness. We may even end up reproducing the divisiveness and hate we set to mend.

But there is another way. Our best hope lies in combining our passion for justice with contemplative practices and the best possible management and organizational development skills. Some people may swear by a particular technique, but there are enough alternatives–from every tradition–to suit almost anyone. Incorporating these practices into daily life, reconnecting with our values and motivations, and creating more alignment between inner and outer work can result in radical transformation for men and women laboring on the front lines of social change. Over time, they can deepen their capacity to lead and achieve more sustainable results. We can also utilize these approaches within our organizations to achieve the same results on a much larger scale.

In the last dozen years, several new centers have begun offering workshops, training, and advisory services designed to foster these skills among social change organizations. Among them are stone circles (North Carolina), the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (Massachusetts), Social Justice Leadership (New York), and the Rockwood Leadership program and the Movement Strategy Center (both in California). Some of their teachings describe conventional ways to improve organizational management and performance. But most go much deeper, helping participants development more effective ways of listening, communicating, building partnerships, and identifying challenges and opportunities in their field. Unfortunately, these institutions often lack the resources to provide the kind of assistance that community-based groups need to integrate such practices and skills into their work, and that’s where the Seasons Fund comes in.

The Seasons Fund makes grants to help agents of social change view themselves, their work, and the world around them in a new light. Specifically, we support opportunities for reflection and training aimed at fostering personal transformation, building leadership skills, promoting organizational development, forging effective coalitions, and cultivating new ways of envisioning our society. We also support efforts to evaluate the impact of contemplative practices on social change initiatives.

Seasons Fund recently completed an inquiry with the field about our role in the transformative social change landscape; these conversations resulted in an exciting new strategic direction that will guide our work for the next three to five years. This direction aims to: strengthen transformative leadership for movement building by investing and mobilizing resources.

Seasons Fund for Social Transformation catalyzes vibrant and effective social change movements by coupling the power of personal transformation with the public work of creating a just and sustainable world. Together, we aim to raise at least $10 million to support those working for social, economic and environmental justice to embrace a range of contemplative practices that can deepen their capacity to lead.

The Seasons Fund for Transformative Social Change Web site

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